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10 Little Things That Could Be Making Your Home a Fire Hazard

Home fires can happen quickly, devastating lives and property, but unlike other disasters, most home fires can be prevented. Read on to learn 10 unexpected home fire hazards.

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Having old smoke alarms—even if they work!

An effective smoke alarm can make all the difference when it comes to surviving a house fire. It’s not enough to change the batteries twice a year, you also need to replace your alarms every decade. “You should test your smoke alarms every month,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association. “But also don’t forget to check the dates and replace an alarm it’s more than 10 years old.” These are 16 things all smart homeowners do every year.

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Leaving the kitchen while you cook

One in five Americans admits to leaving food cooking unattended on the stove, found an American Red Cross survey. Walking away from food cooking in the kitchen is a serious fire risk. “The leading cause of home fires is cooking and the leading cause of those fires is unattended cooking,” says Carli. If you need to use the stove or oven, be sure to keep an eye on it. Find out these 13 things you never knew about home safety.

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Turning the heat too high when you cook

Cranking up the heat too high can be lethal, even if you’re in the kitchen while you cook. Kevin Kelley, senior director of community preparedness programs for the American Red Cross, recommends paying close attention and turning off the burner if you see smoke or grease starting to boil while frying food. Watch out for these other 11 dangerous things in your house that are accidents waiting to happen.

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Having a dirty stove while you cook

If your stove is covered with grease and other flammable grime, a small kitchen fire can get out of hand quickly. Clean and clear the area around the stove before turning on the heat. Learn how to keep your kitchen health-inspector approved in less than 5 minutes.

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Not fully extinguishing your cigarettes

While cooking is the leading cause of home fires, smoking is actually the leading cause of home fire deaths. “If you have people in your home who smoke, make sure they smoke outside and extinguish all of their cigarettes completely in sand or water,” says Carli.

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Using unsafe candleholders

Leaving candles unattended is an obvious fire risk, but a lesser-known candle risk is unstable candleholders. “If you’re burning candles, put them on sturdy candleholders and make sure they’re at least a foot away from anything that can burn,” says Carli.Be extra careful around these 10 surprising household items that are extremely flammable.

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Not cleaning your chimney

Have fireplaces, chimneys, and wood and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary. It should go without saying, but never leave fireplaces or stoves unattended when in use.

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Misplacing space heaters

Where you put your space heater can be a matter of life and death. If it’s too close to anything that can catch fire, including bedding or curtains, you greatly increase your chances of a house fire. “Make sure you keep space heaters three feet away from anything that can burn,” says Carli. If you need to use a space heater, place it on a hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor, and avoid rugs and carpets altogether, advises the American Red Cross. Make sure you know these other 20 hidden things that make your home a fire hazard.

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Using frayed electrical cords

If it has been awhile since you’ve looked at the condition of your electrical cords, now is a good time to check in. Frayed or broken electrical cords are problematic and can cause fires if they aren’t replaced. You should also plug power cords directly into outlets, not into extension cords. Here are 10 more things in your home you didn’t realize were safety hazards.

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Not having a fire extinguisher in the home

A small fire extinguisher can help put out a small fire before it has a chance to rage out of control. When you’re cooking, keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby. You can use it to cover your pan if it catches on fire. Salt and baking soda can be sprinkled on a grease fire to extinguish it. Don’t forget to do these other 10 vital home maintenance tasks that could save you thousands.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest